Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sermon on Phil 2

Sermon for Katcyriu Parish 
Kigali Rwanda
September 28th 2014
Text: Phil 2:1:13

In the United States we have a subject in school called Physical Education. It is a time in the day when all the children are gathered together to play sports and get some of their energy out. 

The children will be lined up and brought into a large gymnasium or out onto a field and given different sports to play.  Many times the games we play, like football (make kicking motion) require the children to be divided into two teams. 

The teacher will regularly select two children to be captains. These two children take turns picking the other children they want on their teams. Often they pick the fastest, strongest, most popular children first- and then there is one child who is picked absolutely last. No one wants to be that child, picked last! 

I remember when I was waiting to be selected I would puff up my chest (puff up chest) and I would try to look big and tough- the sort of person you want on your team! But I was not very coordinated- not very good at sports- and frequently I was one of the last children picked.

I wanted to project an image of being cool- of being strong. But this is not only something that happens to school children! This is something we do all of the time— we look around ourselves and try to see who is higher than who. Who is driving a car? Who is driving a nice car? Who has nice new shoes? We look around and determine that he is higher than her- or they are lower than me etc. This is the way the world works. We are all like children in gym class. 

The way that the World works. It is the spirit of this age and it finds its way into each and every one of our hearts. 

The Scriptures today tell us a story- a story about how God came to be with us. 

St. Paul writes that Christ- being in the very form, the very nature and substance of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped- something to be taken ahold of. 

Even though Christ was supremely powerful in unity of the Father and Holy Spirit- the same God- Christ humbled himself and became human. (Walk from high up on the right to down low in the middle of the congregation) 

We all feel the need to fill ourselves up- but the Scriptures tell us that Jesus Christ Emptied himself when he became a human. 

Not just a human being- he came in the form of a Slave. 

The King of Kings arrives to be with us and he is born in a barn surrounded by animals. 
The Lord of life itself takes on a mortal body- a body that can be bruised and cut and hurt. 

Jesus enters into this world not with the fanfare of the King- not Driving a fancy Land Cruiser but riding a donkey. 

The story we are told is that while we feel like we have to puff ourselves up- Jesus Emptied himself and became poor.  

Jesus did not come as the King he was- but made his dwelling among those who were picked last! 

Jesus was obedient to his Father and shows us what humility looks like. 

Jesus emptied himself of health so to take on sickness- Jesus empties himself of his Glory so that he might take on poverty- Jesus gives up his rightful place as King so that he might take on persecution from the government. 

And then- in the most shocking thing to ever happen on earth- Jesus gives up his own life to take on our death. And not just any death- no a dark- painful and humiliating death- Death on a Cross. 

There is no darkness Christ has not entered. There is no pain Christ has not felt. There is no weakness Jesus has not known. There is no poverty Jesus was to high to accept as his own there is no death that Jesus does not understand. 

They put his broken body in a hole in the ground and rolled a stone over it. The Strong Roman Empire and religious elite had won- so they thought. 

You see Prideful power that puffs us up on our own ability and our own strength seems to work at first. 

It is like drinking salt water. When you drink salt water - like from an ocean- the water tastes good at first. It makes you think that you are not thirsty for a little while. But in reality the salt in the water makes your body need more and more water. Eventually if someone keeps drinking salt water they will die of thirst and sickness. 

Pride and self-strength are like drinking Salt water. It makes your tongue feel good- it fools you into thinking that you have won when in fact you have lost everything. 

The mighty Rome drank salt water until it withered and died- as is the case with all who have pride and strength. Death comes for them and there is no one strong enough to resist death. 

But Christ what obedient to our Father in heaven and faced death on our behalf and just when it seemed that all hope was Lost God raised Jesus Up! Raised him up with a resurrected body because Jesus had overcome death- weakness-poverty and despair. 

And because of Christ’s obedience and ultimate humility God Exalts Jesus above all others- Jesus takes the body once broken to sit at the right hand of the father in Glory- So that at his name every knee will bow and tongue confess that he is Lord. 

What is this strange story? We have a God who conquers through dying? We have a God who shows the extent of his power by taking on weakness!  

We have a God who came and gave dignity to the poor because our king was poor. We have a Lord to who came and gave dignity to the weak because he too was weak and through his obedience he has conquered death and became the way for us to share in his Kingdom. 

And St. Paul tells us that we are to have the very same mind as  Christ Jesus our Lord. He asks us to join with Christ in taking on humility- not looking down on one neighbor and being jealous of another. Not puffing up but offering ourselves in love to one another. 

This does not mean poverty and pain are good in themselves- nor is there anything wrong with working hard to help you, your family and your community flourish! This passage does not mean we should not seek to grow healthy families and churches and communities. NO. What it does mean is that we are to recognize that it is God who sustains us- not our own strength. We are not to fool ourselves into thinking we are bigger and better than our other brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have an example for us:  Our Bishop Rwaje. He is not just the Bishop of Gasabo he is also the Archbishop of Rwanda- he is the pastor to the entire country. Here is a man with a high status- an important man. 

But our ++ Rwaje does not drive a big fancy car. He drives a little Rav 4. He is a man who is never to important to pick up a small child- or to spend time in prayer with anyone who needs it. He is a man of good humor who does not take himself too seriously. 

I work in the Gasabo Diocese offices- and we are rearranging the space. In doing this a very large room has become available to ++, so we told him he should take the large space and he refused- he wanted to stay in his little office in the back of the office. 

Friends here is a leader who is at heart a servant- one who has taken on the mind of Christ and lives not seeking selfish ambition but according to Christ’s own example and love. 

If our Lord could be a servant- so can we. We can learn new ways to love and serve one another because it is God’s own life in us that wills and works to his pleasure. 

And this will not be easy- it is very hard to not be self seeking- not to try to put ourselves above other people. Humility is the very heart of discipleship but it is very very difficult.  This is why Paul pleas with us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling- we must understand the overwhelming Grace of God in Christ Jesus and struggle every day to live into his self-giving life. 

This does not need to be shown in big ways- it is most often the little things in our life that make the biggest difference. Do you look for ways to serve your husband, wife, parents and siblings? Do you look for ways to serve and bless those who you work with? Jesus washed the disciples feet- are you willing to unpleasant things for others? 

A very old prayer that has helped Christians focus on Christ in humility is called the Jesus Prayer and it goes like this: 

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  You can say it to yourself again and again when you are struggling with pride and selfish ambition. 

It comes from a parable from Luke 18: 

Luke 18:10-14
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Can you say this with me? 
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. 
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. 

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